The Art of Seduction: Book Overview (Robert Greene)

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What is Robert Greene’s The Art of Seduction about? What is the key message to take away from the book?

In his book The Art of Seduction, Robert Greene offers insight into the psychology of attraction and provides a template for how to successfully entice lovers or devoted followers. According to Greene, we all want the power to seduce, whether we admit it or not.

Below is a brief overview of The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.

The Art of Seduction

In his 2001 book The Art of Seduction, Robert Greene provides insight into the nature of seduction, offering a template for how to successfully seduce people. Seduction is often sexual, but can also be used to gain adoring friends, followers, and political supporters.

Robert Greene is the author of several other bestselling books including The 48 Laws of Power (1998), The 33 Strategies of War (2007), and Mastery (2012). He has no formal training in human psychology or behavior, and claims to derive his ideas about seduction and power directly from his observation of people over the course of his life. He admits he seduced his current partner using the techniques described in this book

In this guide, we’ll set the ground rules for a successful seduction, and then we’ll divide the seduction process into two major parts. In Part 1, we’ll introduce the types of seducers and “victims” Greene identifies, so you can determine which role suits you best and how to approach your intended target. In Part 2, we’ll cover the specific steps of the seduction process.

Throughout the guide, we’ll compare Greene’s techniques to others in the “pickup artist” community, we’ll look at what research tells us about the science of attraction, and we’ll provide counterpoints from relationship experts.

(Shortform note: It should be noted from the outset that a number of the tactics described in this book are considered by many to be unethical or even abusive. For example, isolating a partner from their family and friends, which Greene recommends, is commonly considered emotional abuse. Psychologists and relationship experts note that using the techniques promoted in the pickup artist community can be damaging to both the prey and the predator, leading to unfulfilling relationships and lives. Greene admits that many of his readers claim they use his books to understand manipulative behavior in order to avoid becoming the victim of manipulators.)

Setting Up the Game: The Ground Rules of Seduction 

Before discussing the specifics of seduction, Greene first gives some general advice on becoming a successful seducer. It’s important that you’re prepared with these in mind prior to embarking on your seduction.

Greene believes the seductive process requires the following six qualities:

Quality #1: Effort. Once you’ve chosen the person you want to seduce (which Greene refers to as your “victim” but we’ll call your “target”), you must put effort into pursuing them. Contact them frequently and incorporate seductive tactics into every interaction you have with them. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if love is meant to be, it’ll simply fall into place naturally. 

Quality #2: A focus on generating love, not lust. Greene says that seduction is specifically about getting people to fall in love with you—not just to lust after you. While lust enthralls a person in the short term, it usually fades after they’ve gained sexual satisfaction, meaning the seducer’s power recedes swiftly. To be a great seducer, and retain your power, you must gain your target’s love. 

(Shortform note: What Greene describes throughout the book as “love” may be more accurately described as “infatuation,” or even “obsession.” He emphasizes having power over your target, and getting them to think about you constantly, to the point of losing control of themselves. While love is typically understood as a deep, selfless affection for a person that grows over time, infatuation implies an obsessive—and often lustful—kind of desire that’s “dramatic, intense, and all-consuming.”)

Quality #3: Constant practice. The most successful seducers refine their craft by attempting to seduce almost everyone they meet. The more you practice a skill, the better you get. And the more successful seductive interactions you have, the more your confidence will grow—and being confident will make you even more attractive to your targets. (Shortform note: Research shows that 63% of men feel that regular dating also improves them as a person, because it allows them to be more open and get to know themselves better. However, far fewer women report this benefit. Psychologists say this may be because women are taking on the “therapist” role on dates with men, while men dominate the conversations. So, be careful of this effect, and try to keep the dynamic balanced.) 

Quality #4: Rejection of self-absorption. Greene says successful seducers rarely talk or think about themselves when interacting with their targets. Instead, they put all of their focus onto learning about their target: for instance, about their likes and dislikes, their ambitions, and the kinds of social and romantic interactions they respond well to. 

Quality #5: Flexibility of personality. According to Greene, seducers have no single “self.” Instead, they tailor their personality to match what their current target finds most appealing. For instance, if they know their target prefers their romantic partners to be introverted, the seducer will suppress their natural extroversion and craft a more introverted persona. 

(Shortform note: This flexibility is reminiscent of the god Zeus, one of the most prolific seducers in Greek mythology, who could change his physical form to appeal to his targets’ tastes. Many of the mythological stories about Zeus involve his sexual conquests—and sometimes rape—of men and women by shape-shifting into forms to lure his targets to him.) 

Quality #6: The abandonment of traditional morality. Seducers don’t think about whether their actions are “right” or “wrong.” For example, Greene says you can’t consider whether tailoring your personality to a target is deceptive and morally wrong. This would undermine your game. Instead, he says a good seducer thinks of their actions as nothing more than an entertaining game that allows them to get what they want.

Finally, Greene notes that, contrary to popular belief, one quality that a successful seducer doesn’t require is traditional good looks. As you’ll learn in Part 2, seduction primarily involves using psychological techniques to manipulate your chosen target. Everyone can learn to implement these techniques successfully, regardless of their appearance. 

(Shortform note: The research only partly agrees with Greene’s assertion here. Two different studies of single men and women found that, although factors like intelligence and social status were rated as relatively high priorities in a potential partner, looks were considered very important by both men and women—a bit more so for men.)

Part 1: The Players in the Game: Seducers and Targets

Greene says that seduction isn’t as much about strategies and techniques as it is about cultivating certain qualities in yourself. When you develop these qualities, and learn to embody them, you can use them to lure people in and then easily manipulate them. 

(Shortform note: Despite this claim, this book focuses fairly heavily on techniques, as do other “pickup artist” manuals, like The Game. The seductive quality most literature in this genre points to as being essential, though, is confidence, and research supports this. But don’t get too cocky—overconfidence might actually diminish your perceived attractiveness.) 

To begin,  identify which seducer type you have a natural tendency toward. This will be the primary character you’ll play. Greene’s steps toward fully embodying your seductive personality are:

  • Identify your natural seducer type
  • Work on fully developing it
  • Add complexity by incorporating one or two more types
  • Identify your anti-seducer tendencies
  • Work on eliminating those from your behavior 

The Types of Seducers

In this section, we’ll define Greene’s nine seducer types, using his labels for them, and we’ll describe each one’s seductive quality. As you read these descriptions, consider which ones might be compatible with your natural tendencies. Greene says Types 1 and 2 are specifically female and male types, respectively. The other types can all apply to any gender.

Type 1—“The Siren”—represents the (heterosexual) male fantasy. She’s a hypersexual, stereotypically feminine woman. She invites repressed, bored, and rational men to let loose and fully give themselves to pleasure. We might also think of this seductress as the “femme fatale” stereotype. 

(Shortform note: In ancient Greek mythology, a Siren is a mythical half-bird, half-human woman with an irresistibly beautiful song. The Siren resides on rocky coasts and lures sailors in with her seductive voice, eventually causing them to crash on the rocks. This mythology warns of the dangerous nature of the seductive woman.)

Type 2—“The Rake”—is the quintessential “bad boy.” This type showers women with flattery and gives them ample excitement and sexual pleasure. Greene says this type is well known for sleeping with many women, a reputation that he creates himself by bragging about his conquests. He knows that doing this will draw in more targets, as women seek to find out if he lives up to his reputation. 

Type 3—“The Dandy”—is a seducer who experiments with gender nonconformity. For instance, a man may incorporate elements of femininity into his appearance or behavior, while a woman may embrace some masculine traits. Greene emphasizes, however, that this type doesn’t go too far with expressing traits of the opposite gender. This would lead heterosexual people of the opposite sex—in other words, their intended targets—to no longer find them attractive. 

Type 4—“The Natural”—is a person who has retained childlike qualities in adulthood. For example, they’re playful and spontaneous. They may also seem innocent for their years (for instance, unaware of the unpleasant parts of life). Greene explains that many people secretly wish they could return to the carefree and joyful time of childhood to escape the boring rigidity of adult life. This seducer’s childlike demeanor provides this appeal. 

(Shortform note: This type is reminiscent of the “manic pixie dream girl” that appears as a trope in countless movies. This character is always a very young woman with a bubbly, free-spirited nature who serves the purpose of reinvigorating a man’s life with childlike wonder and playfulness.)

Type 5—“The Charmer”—hooks their targets by appealing to their vanity and showering them with flattery. They boost the target’s self-esteem by paying them compliments designed to soothe their insecurities. Type 5 seducers never criticize or disagree with their target. They always agree, flatter, and boost the target. This particular seduction strategy is a long con and is not overtly sexual.

Type 6—“The Ideal Lover”—lures in their targets by figuring out what the target longs for most in life, then modifying their own personality to fulfill that desire. For instance, if a target desires romance, this type passionately woos them—even if such behavior doesn’t come naturally to them. Greene says many people who have unfulfilled desires feel like failures who’ve fallen short of their full potential. The Type 6 seducer eliminates this feeling of failure by helping the target finally achieve their wish. 

(Shortform note: Types 5 and 6 could align with the idea of learning your partner’s love language, since both of these involve knowing how to cater your affections to your specific target. In The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that being a better partner means learning how that person wants to receive love, and adapting to it. For example, if your partner’s love language is “receiving gifts,” you should make it a priority to surprise them with little presents, even if gift-giving isn’t meaningful to you.)

Type 7—“The Coquette”—is a tease who plays hot and cold with their targets. One week, they may be attentive and affectionate, giving their target hope that the relationship will work. The next week, they’ll be distant, telling the target that they don’t really want to be with them and can live without them—or, ignoring the target entirely. The target often views Type 7’s cold moods as a challenge to be overcome (this works well with targets who relish a challenge), rather than a sign that the relationship isn’t working.  

Type 8—“The Charismatic”—radiates a charisma that makes them seem extraordinary. The root of their charisma could be any number of things, such as confidence, happiness, or raw sexual energy. Whatever the case, it’s a quality that naturally enthralls most people, making it easy for this type to seduce almost anyone. Greene explains that targets devote themselves to this seducer because they believe that these people are “special” and hope their extraordinary nature will rub off.

Type 9—“The Star”—intrigues their targets by being simultaneously “real” and “unreal.” This means that they have ordinary and “relatable” personality traits, while simultaneously being “special” in some way. Greene says embodying a mix of reality and unreality gives Type 9 an ethereal, dream-like air that fascinates their targets. For example, someone who’s a musician might set themselves apart by presenting a seductive “performer” side on stage, but while interacting with their target they play up their humble background.

The Repellents

Now that we’ve covered the types of seducers—and, hopefully, you have an idea which type of seducer you could be—we’ll discuss what Greene calls “anti-seducers”: people who, due to their behavior, are naturally repellent. Understanding these qualities will help you avoid turning off the people you wish to seduce. Greene tells us that most people have at least one or two repellent traits to overcome. If you find yourself slipping into any of these behaviors, quickly correct course and rescue your seduction. 

  • Insecurity and self-consciousness: Greene says the most repellent trait is insecurity. When you’re too self-conscious, you act awkward and uncomfortable, and this makes others feel awkward and uncomfortable too. 
  • Impatience: Reacting negatively when you have to wait for anything indicates self-absorption. Remember, patience is a virtue.
  • Clingy behavior: Getting too obsessed with a romantic prospect too quickly often leads to becoming a doormat. Play it cool.
  • Being judgmental: Nobody likes to be put down and criticized, so a judgmental nature will be a turnoff. Keep your criticisms to yourself.
  • Stinginess: Greene says that a lack of generosity and never wanting to give to others is one of the most unattractive qualities. This isn’t just about money—people can be stingy with sharing anything, even their time. Be generous and giving and people will want to be around you.
  • Talking too much: Dominating conversations, especially when you only talk about yourself, is not appealing to others. Greene points out that most people who do this lack self-awareness, and don’t even realize they do it—so pay close attention and nip it in the bud.
  • Hyper-sensitivity: People who overreact emotionally, are easily offended, or complain frequently are unpleasant to be around. Learn to control your emotions and to laugh at yourself.
  • Unfiltered speaking: Behaving in a socially inappropriate manner, or lacking tact and discretion, is often described as having “no filter.” If people describe you this way, it’s not a charming or amusing quality—it’s distasteful. Greene says a good seducer is the opposite of unfiltered. Your behavior and words should always be carefully filtered to convey sophistication and class.

Types of Targets

Once you’ve identified the seductive role you’ll play, and hopefully worked on eliminating any repellent tendencies you have, you’ll need to start thinking about your target. Whether you already have someone in mind, or you’re not yet focused on anyone in particular, it’s important that you understand the basics of what Greene calls “victim theory.” 

The foundation of this theory, according to Greene, is understanding that everyone is lacking something. When you can pinpoint what a person is lacking in their life—and therefore what they long for—you can use that to your advantage by filling that void for them. So, the crucial first step in seducing your chosen target is identifying what they’re lacking, seeking, or craving in their life. Then all you have to do is give it to them. 

(Shortform note: Greene’s first book, The 48 Laws of Power, is a broader guide to manipulation that can be used to accomplish any purpose in life. In that book, he also emphasizes the power you can attain over others by exploiting their weaknesses. He says two major voids people tend to have in their lives are insecurity and discontent. When you pay close attention to a person, they’ll eventually reveal the source of their insecurities and dissatisfaction, and then you can use those to your advantage by validating the insecurity and easing the discontent.)

Greene advises that you don’t choose a target that’s too much like you. He says the dynamic won’t work well if you both have the same deficiencies or weaknesses. So, in the following target descriptions, if something resonates with your own personality, avoid that type of target. There is one notable exception: Gender non-conformists tend to attract one another, so often a gender non-conforming target can be seduced by a Type 3 seducer. 

First, Greene details the general characteristics of good targets:

  • They have some void in themselves that you can fill. Happy, contented people don’t make good targets. Don’t bother with them. The best target is someone who has a void you can fill or a flaw you can take advantage of. 
  • They have a good imagination. This makes them susceptible to suggestion, because their mind will fill in the blanks with romanticized notions.
  • They are introverted. Introverts are better targets than extroverts, because they often desire to be “drawn out” of themselves. 
  • They have ample free time. People who have space in their lives and minds that needs filling make excellent targets. Avoid people who are very busy, especially workaholics, as they won’t give you the time you need to carry out a seduction.

(Shortform note: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, confesses that she was once a “seduction addict.” She admits that she often targeted men who were already in relationships, because she could exploit their discontent or boredom with that relationship by positioning herself as an attractive alternative. In this way she took advantage of a lack and used a crafted persona to inspire the man’s romantic imagination and lure him out of his ordinary life.) 

Once you’re sure that your target fits these general qualities, look for their more specific traits, which we’ll discuss next. We’ve condensed Greene’s 18 different target types by categorizing them according to the weaknesses, deficiencies, or qualities that can be manipulated. 

The Nostalgics

The nostalgic type of target is someone who has a strong attachment to their past and longs to recapture the passion and desire they experienced in their youth. These are individuals who were likely attractive, popular, and seductive themselves, and are now past that phase of life. For example, they may have been a star athlete in college, had a brief period of fame as a musician, or be someone who was raised in an indulgent lifestyle. 

If they were a seducer in their past, let them seduce you. This type of person longs to recapture the seductive excitement of their youth. Indulge them, making them feel sexual prowess once again. Greene notes that if this type comes from a very privileged background and has lived an indulgent life, they’re typically only seduced by youth and innocence—so if you aren’t fairly young, you might not want to bother with this type.

If they were once the center of attention, shower them with that attention once again. This type may have been a star athlete in college or had a brief period of fame as a musician. Greene advises you play the role of the Type 5 seducer with this target, appealing to their ego with flattery.

The Escapists

The escapist types are people who long to break free from the limiting roles they play in everyday life. They may have a conscious or unconscious desire for a role reversal in which they can act outside the confines of what they’re accustomed to or what’s expected of them. To seduce this type, simply give them this opportunity.

If they’re someone who’s in a powerful position, reverse the roles. Greene says these targets won’t fall for flattery because they’re accustomed to it and perceive it as insincere. Instead, treat them as your equal, or even as your inferior—this will intrigue them because nobody ever interacts with them that way. 

If they’re someone who is classically attractive, focus on something other than their beauty, and let them pursue you. This type of target is accustomed to being seen only for their outward appearance. They long to feel appreciated for their nonphysical qualities, so emphasize those. For example, compliment them often on their intelligence or sense of humor. Also, Greene says you should let them do the pursuing, because they’re so used to being pursued that they’ll enjoy being the pursuer for once.

If they’re innocent or repressed, give them a taste of the excitement they’re missing. This category includes people who are afraid of judgment (and are often judgmental themselves), or people who are sheltered and naive and have little life experience. Greene says you should expose this kind of target to new and exciting things. Give them a hint of danger, but keep it minimal, so you don’t actually scare them away.

The Self-Indulgents 

This category of targets includes people who long to have their natural tendencies indulged.  They’re either relatively self-absorbed people who just want someone to cater to them, or they have some characteristic that’s rarely appreciated. Because of this, they’ll love anyone who indulges them by appreciating their otherwise hard-to-love qualities. Greene says this type of target often works better as a short-term prospect, because they tend to be narcissistic, and dealing with them can be draining.

If they’re childish or used to being “spoiled,” play the role of an indulgent parent. This may include people who come from privilege and have always gotten what they wanted, or the kind of person who never wants to grow up. They tend to shirk responsibility, never taking life seriously. With this type, Greene advises playing the responsible parent role and letting them be childlike. Act as if you enjoy their childish qualities. 

If they thrive on drama and victimhood, give it to them. These people think everyone’s out to get them and do a lot of complaining. They won’t go for security and stability, so don’t offer it. Regularly inject some drama into their life and your relationship by picking fights and causing them pain. 

If they think of themselves as superior to others, let them look down on you. This type of person is wrapped up in being a know-it-all. Greene says to let them be superior. Hide any intellectual tendencies you have, always let them be the smart one, and instead give them pure physicality. This will satisfy their longing to get out of their overthinking minds and maintain their air of superiority.

The Seekers

The seeker type of target is someone who is looking for some sort of fantasy. All you have to do with these people is be the fantasy they’re seeking. 

If they’re someone who lives in a fantasy world, just be a character in their fantasy. These people are hopeless romantics who dream of a perfect world and relationship. You can spot them by their romantic and fantasy style of clothing, home decor, or choice in movies. Just take notice of what that fantasy looks like for them and play a role that fits it. Greene notes that sometimes this type fantasizes about and fetishizes the exotic—their homes are usually decorated with exotic elements from around the world. He says you have little chance of seducing this type if you don’t come from a different culture or background from them. If you do, however, just emphasize the “unfamiliar” aspect of yourself. 

If they’re someone who wants to save the world, join them or let them save you. These are people who are devoted to some cause, or always trying to “rescue” people. If they’re devoted to some spiritual cause, you should first act like you share their interest in that cause, and then gradually replace it, becoming the object of their devotion. If they’re the “savior complex” type, exaggerate your weaknesses, present a melancholy demeanor, and let them think you need saving from the harsh world.

Part 2: Playing the Game—The Seduction Process

To seduce someone means to make them fall in love with you, romantically or platonically. Through the seduction process, you can win sexual partners or adoring and devoted friends, fans, or followers. According to Greene, the aim is always to bring the other person under your control. Once you have a person under your control, you can easily manipulate them into doing what you want. “What you want” may be sex: this is the traditional perception of seduction’s end goal. However, Greene emphasizes that seduction doesn’t have to be sexual. Instead, it may be about convincing someone to support you politically, or to buy your product or service. 

(Shortform note: In The 48 Laws of Power, Green discusses a variety of other ways these techniques could be employed. For one example, he explains how you can generate a cult following of people who will adore you and do your bidding. This means you can use them to generate wealth and status. One of the methods he suggests for doing this is by imitating the structure of organized religion by positioning yourself as a guru figure and setting up a hierarchy, rules, and titles for your followers.)

First, use the general characteristics of good targets described in Part 1 to identify an appropriate seduction target. Once you’ve identified your target, it’s time to commence with the seduction process.

Greene’s seduction process happens in four phases, which we’ll describe as:

  • Luring your target
  • Sinking your hook
  • Reeling in your catch
  • Devouring your prey 

While you’ll want to follow the general template described here, you may have to tweak some of your tactics a bit as you learn more about your target. For example, we’ll describe one step in which Greene suggests finding (or creating) an opportunity to “rescue” your target from some difficulty. If, however, your target is the “savior complex” type who always wants to rescue others, you may want to set up a scenario that allows them to come to your aid instead. Remember, always cater to your target’s specific deficit or weakness.

Phase 1: Lure Your Target 

During this first phase, spend some time learning more about your potential target to discover what target type they most embody. This will determine your specific seductive strategy. If done well, you’ll intrigue your target in this phase.

Step 1: Create a sense of security. In the beginning, Greene says to act like you’re just interested in your target as a person and want to be friends. This way, they’ll relax and let their guard down. They’ll then feel comfortable opening up to you, which will allow you to learn their vulnerabilities, cluing you in to the type of seduction that will work best with this person. 

Step 2: Create intrigue by appearing desirable. Making your target think other people want you will make them think there must be something desirable about you, and they’ll want to find out what it is. Greene advises trying to surround yourself with other people to make yourself look popular. (Shortform note: Be selective about who you surround yourself with. Psychological research shows that both men and women found potential mates less attractive when they were surrounded by good-looking people of the same sex, but more attractive when they were surrounded by good-looking people of the opposite sex. So, for a successful seduction you may want to find some attractive opposite-sex friends to surround yourself with.) 

Step 3: Create a need that you can fulfill. As we’ve discussed, Greene emphasizes this as the most important element of seduction. The target must think you have something they need, which means they need to believe there’s something missing in their own life. You can create this sense of deficit for them by subtly pointing out things that are wrong with their life. For example, you may hint at the lack of adventure and excitement in their life or mention how dull their friends and family are. Then assure them you can give them what’s missing. 

Step 4: Play to your target’s vanity. Imitation is the most seductive form of flattery, and flattery will often get you everywhere, Greene says. Subtly mirror your target’s mannerisms, tastes, moods, and beliefs. Make them believe they’re the person they think they are by mirroring their ideal self back to them. For example, if your target sees themselves as a devout spiritual practitioner, present yourself as that too, and let them believe you admire their faith and devotion. 

Step 5: Create a tempting “taboo.” People are drawn in by what they think is forbidden, so give your target the sense that you’re unavailable in some way. Be flirtatious and flattering, but let them think they can’t have you yet. Greene says it’s very important to be patient—remember in this phase you’re just creating intrigue.

Phase 2: Sink Your Hook 

In this next phase, you’ll take your target from being intrigued to being “hooked.” This means their attention will be focused on you alone. According to Greene’s process, the key to this hook is to play a role and create an illusion that you’ll lure the target into.

Step 1: Create surprise and unpredictability. Most people find predictability boring, so you’ll need to come up with ways to occasionally surprise your target. Try giving them unexpected little gifts, or arrange a spontaneous trip, to keep things interesting.

Step 2: Use the power of language to create an illusion. Words can have power over people, so use them deliberately. Greene reminds us that regular people say what they really think. The seducer, however, crafts their words to direct their target’s thoughts and feelings. There are a few ways to use what Greene calls the “demonic power of words” to manipulate:

  • Use flattery specifically about whatever your target feels insecure about. Compliment them on things nobody else does and feign emotionality, as if you’re truly impressed.
  • Be vague and ambiguous often, so the target gets confused. For example, give the target vague promises of future adventure, without being specific. Greene asserts that this will put you in a position of power as they grapple with trying to figure you out.
  • Don’t argue with your target—it’s anti-seductive. Instead, regularly repeat and affirm whatever your target says, and try to use humor when you want to lighten the mood.

(Shortform note: In The Game, Neil Strauss describes how pickup artists use neuro-linguistic programming principles to seduce women. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a method developed by psychologists to treat people with mental health problems using language to direct their thoughts toward healthier patterns. The techniques, however, have been picked up by those in the world of seduction, to be used for directing the target’s thoughts toward sexual desire. Strauss describes how he learned to use specific words and gestures in conversation with women in a way that led them to subconsciously associate his words with sexual arousal.)

Step 3: Never let them see the real you. You can’t present yourself as an ordinary person when you’re trying to seduce someone. You must be the ideal this person fantasizes about. According to Greene, this means that rather than expressing preferences of your own, you’ll want to cater to what your target likes—in the way you dress, where you take them, what you talk about, and so on. 

(Shortform note: In No More Mr. Nice Guy, Robert Glover says in order to live a fulfilling life, a man must stop being overly accommodating to others, and instead be authentic. While Greene doesn’t suggest that you actually agree with your target—only act like you do—Glover says that integrity is an essential quality men should cultivate. He also argues that it’s too difficult to keep up a facade all the time.)

Step 4: Manipulate using moments of weakness. Occasionally let your target see a vulnerable side of you. Greene suggests confessing some secret to them, expressing deep emotion. Cry if you can. This disarms the target and makes them feel close to you. Wait until you’ve gotten to know them a little first, though—don’t do this too soon, and don’t overdo it.  

Step 5: Alienate the target from their world and bring them into yours. Green says that your target’s friends and family will be your biggest enemy in the seduction process. They give the target comfort and security and may also try to sway them against you if they see through your tactics. This means you should try to get your target away from their friends and family as much as possible. Convince them that their friends and family are jealous of the time they spend with you or that they’re paternalistically controlling. Greene notes that this last point works particularly well with very young people who feel confined by parental control. Keeping the target from all forms of comfort creates a fear that only you can “save” them from. 

Phase 3: Reel in Your Catch 

During this phase, you’ll intentionally manipulate your target’s emotions using psychological tactics. They’ll become infatuated with you and totally fixated on wanting to be with you. 

Step 1: Play the hero. You need to prove your devotion to your target, so Greene suggests you find a way to “rescue” them. Be ready to spring into action to help them with anything they need, at all times. Even if it’s not something you want to do, remember that this will work to your advantage. When you do help your target, he says, be sure to play up how much it cost you—in time, effort, or money. If nothing comes up naturally, you can create a scenario where you put them in an invented danger or crisis situation that you have to help them out of.

Step 2: Add an element of danger. Make your target feel like there’s something a bit dangerous about you. Break some social rules or taboos. Greene says married people are particularly susceptible to this tactic. Play up the fact that you share a “dirty secret.” 

(Shortform note: You may want to proceed with some caution if introducing an element of danger into someone’s life. Research shows that while some people are drawn to an element of danger, many are averse to it. Studies show it may come down to a specific dopamine receptor that makes some people more thrill-seeking. Often what we perceive as risk-taking behavior is really a pursuit of novelty—people seek out adventures because they want new experiences they haven’t had before. So, this finding is more consistent with Greene’s advice in Phase 2 to create the element of surprise.)

Step 3: Take advantage of childhood trauma. Get your target to talk about their childhood and play the role of “therapist.” Listen intently and notice where they express something missing in their life, then fill that for them. For example, if they didn’t get enough encouragement as a child, become encouraging. Or if they had uninvolved parents, become parental toward them by being loving but also sometimes “scolding”  or “punishing” them. (Shortform note: While genuinely wanting to fill an emotional or psychological void for someone can be healthy, purposefully using someone’s trauma to manipulate them is a behavior often associated with psychopathy.)

Step 4: Combine spirituality and physicality. To make your target feel that your bond is deep and meaningful, incorporate an element of spirituality into your seduction. If you portray yourself as being spiritual in some way, Greene says they won’t suspect your manipulation and will trust that your intentions are pure. Expose them to sublime art, poetry, music, or theater, so that they associate you with that soulful feeling. (Shortform note: Rather than putting up a spiritual facade, you might consider undertaking a genuine spiritual pursuit. Science confirms that people who have religion or spirituality in their lives tend to be happier, and less depressed and anxious, than those who don’t.)

Step 5: Alternate between giving pleasure and pain. Always keep your target on an emotional roller coaster. According to Greene, people get addicted to that kind of excitement. So he says you should try to elicit feelings like jealousy, insecurity, and anger, so you can then relieve those feelings for them. Niceness is only attractive in the very beginning, but people get easily bored with it. Creating a cycle of alternating pain and pleasure causes dependency. Your target will be addicted to you. 

One warning Greene offers about this tactic: be sure not to use it too early on. Wait a bit to introduce the pain. And don’t use this on people who already have too much pain and suffering in their lives—it will turn them off. 

(Shortform note: In the pickup artist community, this “roller coaster” method is called the Push Pull Technique. As the name implies, the seducer does some flirtatious behavior such as giving compliments and affection, to pull the target toward them. Then, when the target shows interest, they do something to push them away, such as turning their attention to someone else, and then the cycle repeats.)

Phase 4: Devour Your Prey

In this final phase, you’ll bring your seduction to its desired conclusion, which is usually (but not always) a sexual relationship. You have your target at the point of knowing they want you now, so you’re in the perfect position to make your big move.

Step 1: Back off and appear to lose interest. To get to a full physical seduction, Greene says you should wait until you are certain the target wants you and then withdraw your sexual attention for a bit. Back off and appear to lose interest, perhaps subtly hinting at your interest in someone else. Act neutral around them like you don’t really physically want them. This will force the target to make the move, allowing them to feel that they need to seduce you. They’ll be more excited and invested this way. 

Step 2: Give occasional bouts of focused attention. When you do spend time with your target, Greene says to put all of your intense focus on them, making them forget all their cares in the world. Be fully present and use your eyes to express desire, giving intense seductive looks. Act carefree and confident, so they’ll feel safe, relaxed, and open to advances. 

(Shortform note: How much attention to give someone, or whether to use the “backing off” technique, may hinge on knowing your target’s attachment style. If your target has a secure or avoidant attachment style, the withdrawal of attention may not have any effect at all. Secure attachers are comfortable with distance from their partners, while avoidant attachers are more likely to be repelled by the bouts of focused attention. When dealing with someone with an anxious attachment style, however, this technique could work. These people will desperately want to regain your attention when you withdraw it—as long as you don’t overdo it and repel them entirely.) 

Step 3: Take action. Learn to read the signs that the target has totally fallen for you—for example, they may act nervous around you or mirror you. When you notice this, Greene says it’s time to create an atmosphere for the final move of your seduction to occur. Make it memorable or theatrical in some way. For example, create a romantic setting with candles and music. The target will be putty in your hands at this point. 

Step 4: Stave off disenchantment. After the release of this long period of sexual tension, you must consider your next steps. According to Greene’s template, this will go one of two directions:

  1. If you’re feeling satisfied and done with this person, end it abruptly and unapologetically. Just move on to your next target. 

If you want to continue some form of relationship with this person, you must keep the seduction going, or they’ll get bored with you. If you slack and appear to not be trying as hard, they’ll get disenchanted and see through your manipulations. So, Greene emphasizes that you need to start the seduction process over again, or keep it up, by going back to previous steps. Inflict more pain, then pleasure. Withdraw for brief periods, inciting jealousy. Stay playful and offer adventure. Never get negative. Your subsequent seductions can be quicker cycles of the initial one, and you can keep this up for as long as you want.

The Art of Seduction: Book Overview (Robert Greene)

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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